Plans call for hotel development in Dover-Foxcroft

DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Piscataquis County Economic Development Council currently has a request for proposals out to develop a hotel in Dover-Foxcroft. The council has identified two potential sites for development — the market prices for the parcels are to be determined between the buyer and seller — with one being an undeveloped lot on West Main Street behind Community Health & Counseling Services and Penquis Rental and the other being any available lot within the Pine Crest Business Park off Route 7.

PCEDC Executive Director Angela Arno explained more to the Dover-Foxcroft Select Board during a meeting on Monday evening.

According to the proposal document, the PCEDC would like to have a hotel built in Dover-Foxcroft but neither the council nor the town wishes to develop or own the property. Rather, a developer would purchase a potential parcel for an exclusive use with deed restrictions. The vision/mission for this development is an upper-midscale, limited-service hotel that will serve the needs of a variety of stakeholders and demand generators that are directly or indirectly related to Piscataquis County. The building would have a minimum of 80 rooms.

The objective of this RFP is to identify a qualified and experienced developer which either has developed and owned hotels or will be in partnership with a hotel operator. PCEDC has elected to take this approach rather than using a more traditional real estate broker because of the uniqueness of the organization’s desire to influence the parameters of the development. It does not wish for development of any real estate category other than a hotel and the parcel acquisition would be contingent upon certain deed restrictions.

Arno said the RFPs were issued at the beginning of the month. Site tours will be in early December, with questions to be submitted and answered a few weeks later, and proposals are due by Jan. 12, 2024 with a finalist to be selected in early February. Design, permitting, and zoning would follow and ideally the hotel would open in September of 2026.

Select Chairperson Tom Lizotte said people visiting the region need a place to stay.

Arno said there are draws to the area, including natural attractions and other draws such as the Piscataquis County Ice Arena. The hotel could house families coming to Dover-Foxcroft for ice hockey tournaments. 

Arno said she has also been busy with 13 open brownfields projects, including one at the Browns Mill site. The former woolen mill and tannery on Vaughn Street along the Piscataquis River has five floors and around 65,000 square feet of usable space.

“We have had a number of tire kicks at the mill as it’s been for sale,” she said. She said a few negotiations ended up breaking down, as is common.

The PCEDC is conducting a phase II brownfields assessment for more evaluations of the property to better position it for sale. Arno said if a buyer comes in they can potentially utilize $1.7 million through the council’s revolving loan fund with the EPA for cleanup.

Town Manager Jack Clukey said every year the PCEDC bestows the Warren “Pete” Myrick Community Service Award to recognizes a Piscataquis County resident, business, or organization that exemplifies Myrick’s concern for and commitment to education, economic development and/or civic leadership in the region. Myrick, a Guilford resident who died in 2002, was a long-time educator in SAD 4 and one of the founders of the PCEDC.

“The 2023 recipient is someone we all know well, Chris Maas,” Clukey said about the resident who has served on a number of boards in town and been involved with various organizations.

Arno said the Myrick Award will be given to Maas during the PCEDC annual meeting the evening of Monday, Dec. 4 at the Mill Cafe.

“He ‘s one of those people if you pulled him out of Dover-Foxcroft the last 20 years, the town would be very different,” Select Vice Chairperson Cindy Freeman Cyr said.

In other business, Lizotte said a dam steering committee met last week. Under the auspices of the committee, a partners team is working to consider the various possibilities and everything tying into the Mayo Mill Dam downtown on the Piscataquis River  — such as an assessment of the physical condition of the structure and property, an inventory, and being in compliance with all regulations — to be included in a community-based feasibility study to help determine the long-term future of the dam. 

Lizotte said the group is down to two final options and is set to meet later in the week to come up with a final recommendation for the select board, such as how to repair the dam or phase the structure out. He said another public forum could be held in January, following up a session held in late June, and the board could potentially vote on a plan at the second regular January meeting.

“It’s been a long 11 months,” Lizotte said. “We have all the data we need and now we need to make a decision.”

More than a decade and a half has passed since the Mayo Mill Dam has produced energy. In the years since the municipal-owned structure has remained in place but it is only deteriorating with the continual water flow.

In his report, Clukey said he has spoken with Eastern Maine Community College officials who are looking at long-term strategic planning and are examining the future of the Penquis Higher Education Center on Mayo Street. 

“They are 100 percent committed to their programming in this area,” Clukey said, but EMCC may not remain the owner of the building indefinitely.

“They are happy to be there, they are just looking at the overall structure and how to allocate for facilities and programming for the future,” he said. “There’s no timetable, they just have their planning process and did not want to have any conversation without us.”

More than two decades ago EMCC acquired what is today the Penquis Higher Education Center from the town. The building had previously been an elementary school.

In addition to being utilized by EMCC, it also currently houses the PCEDC, Eastern Maine Development Corporation, and the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative.

In public forum Sean Hadley of the county budget committee said the group’s meetings have concluded. “It’s a pretty good budget for the people,” he said.

When asked, Hadley declined to mention the budget totals as he said the commissioners still will go through the finances and can potentially make adjustments.

A public hearing on the county and unorganized territory spending plans is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 27  at the commissioners chambers at the Peaks House.

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